The Truth About WikiLeaks

I wrote an article for The National Post on WikiLeaks, pegged to the release later this month of the movie The Fifth Estate. Along the way I touch on PRISM, Napster, and the Industrial Workers of the World, among other topics. Here's the lede:

Not that Fifth Estate. Sheesh.Of course they made a movie about Julian Assange. He's a complicated character being pursued by some of the most powerful people on the planet. It's a scenario that just screams to be filmed.

But while The Fifth Estate—which opens in theatres Oct. 18—may turn out to be a compelling picture, it probably won’t shed much light on the revolution represented by WikiLeaks, Assange's website that specializes in publishing secret information. It's not likely to shed that light for the same reason the story is such an attractive idea for a film in the first place: It's about Julian Assange, a man whose adventures and personality threaten to obscure the conditions that thrust him into the news. Assange may have taken advantage of the circumstances that made the world ripe for WikiLeaks, but those circumstances were here before Assange came along, and they aren't going to disappear when he departs.

Read the rest here.

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  • sarcasmic||

    Box. Office. Flop.

  • Robert||

    Who cares about the movie? That looks like a kickass magazine. And as soon as I saw the graphic, I thought, "Jesse Walker"; who here didn't?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Two years ago this month, the U.S. government created the Insider Threat Program, describing the effort as an attempt “to ensure the responsible sharing and safeguarding of classified national security information.” Among other things, this entails asking federal employees to watch one another for signs that someone might want to spill some secrets.

    That one is pretty basic and pretty old. All they did was have some bureaucrat dust off a basic countermeasure and give it a new title.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    New title, along with presumably a new and redundant budget.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Assange may have taken advantage of the circumstances that made the world ripe for WikiLeaks, but those circumstances were here before Assange came along, and they aren't going to disappear when he departs."

    The circumstances go something like this:

    The world has been governed by noble lies since antiquity. The digitization of information suddenly made it easier to bring those lies out into the open like never before.

    Is this the end of the noble lie?

    What we're seeing by the NSA, et. al (in other countries), is a reactionary attempt to tilt the playing field back into the governments' favor and make the world safe for noble lies again.

    Write that screenplay with fictional characters, and it's way better than anything centered completely on Assange. In fact, the powers that be would rather we focus on Assange precisely because he's a repulsive personality and a wedge that distracts us from the bigger issues.

    By focusing on Assange, they're playing right into the governments' hands. They'd love to transform our freedom to know what our governments are doing into a referendum on the likability of Julian Assange, personally.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I think that's a serious reach, Ken.

  • Ken Shultz||

    What's a serious reach?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I just think your post ascribes more intelligence and forethought to the government than is warranted.

  • Ken Shultz||

    A lot of it is damage control rather than forethought.

    I think the attention we saw them give to Snowden, for instance, was an attempt to scare any would-be Snowdens away from coming forward in the future.

    I also think it's a pretty standard practice to try to discredit whistle blowers personally after the fact.

    Bradley Manning, oh, yeah, he wants to become a woman. Julian Assange, the rapist, you mean? Yeah, he's suddenly wanted in Sweden.

  • Paul.||

    It's about Julian Assange, a man whose adventures and personality threaten to obscure the conditions that thrust him into the news.

    Of course it's always difficult to tell from the trailer, but the one I saw indicated they covered this aspect in at least some detail.

  • Paul.||

    “the government is learning what the music and movie industries were forced to learn years ago: it’s easy to copy and distribute digital files.”

    It seems to me that the NSA has known this lesson for a long-ish time. Seems to be a lack of information sharing in the government. Perhaps a new super-agency needs to be made which could help smooth communication between the different intelligence and law enforcement offices. Department of Homefront Security, or something like that.

  • Paul.||

    A century ago, North America’s most radical union — the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies — understood what a powerful weapon whistleblowing could be. “Workers on the railroads can tell of faulty engines, unsafe trestles,” one Wobbly pamphlet proposed. “Marine transport workers would do well to tell of the insufficient number of lifeboats, of inferior belts, and so forth. The textile worker can tell of the shoddy which is sold as ‘wool.’… The workers carry with them the secrets of the masters.

    Here's an interesting philosophical thought (I mean to say, interesting to me):

    Back before there were heavy regulations on business, a union such as the IWW described above could be a kind of safety valve for the public. By becoming that whistleblower, they could leverage their power, improve their working conditions and also improve safety and quality for the public as well.

    Bring in gov't regulation at all levels of business, now a disinterested public official sets the rules, makes sure the rules are followed, and levies the fines and sanctions-- leaving Unions with nothing more than simple salary negotiations. One wonders if this is why so many modern complaints by Unions about "safety" seem to have all the connotations of scare quotes around the word "safety".

    Have regulations dis-empowered the modern union?

  • MJGreen||

    Unions as you describe them are just another 'muscle' of civil society that has atrophied. It's a pretty well known phenomenon where centralized, bureaucratic rules crowd out the better incentivized, bottom-up solutions that existed prior.

    But then you're also talking about unions, so you have the issues of 1) unions turning to cronyism, and 2) they're self-interested organizations, so they'll always talk about how necessary they are for workers' rights and safety.

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